Share in our rich heritage
deeply rooted in tradition
A Puerto Rican Tradition
Over 500 Years of Rolling Cigars
In 1493 Christopher Columbus (sponsored by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain) arrived in Puerto Rico. Originally named 'San Juan Bautista' by the Spanish explorers - the name turned into Puerto Rico or "Rich Port" after they discovered gold in the river. The island was taken as a Spanish colony and quickly became a hub for cultivating and exporting goods such as cattle, sugarcane, coffee, and tobacco.
Spanish settlers found the indigenous Taíno population of the Americas cultivating, blending, rolling, and smoking 'tobako'. The natives called the process sik'ar, which was quickly adopted into the Spanish language as cigarro.
Tobacco became one of the primary products fueling colonization as the use of the leaves for smoking and inhaling as snuff became popular in Spain, Portugal, France, and then further into Europe by the 1570s. It was also used as a form of currency, and for medicinal purposes and referred to as the "sacred herb" or "the queen's herb" by the French.
Puerto Rican tobacco became the ultimate luxury of the European royalty and upper-class for almost two hundred years. Between 1460 and 1660, over half of Puerto Rico's exported shipping tonnage contained tobacco leaves and cigars.
Since then, the smoking of cigars has evolved a global sense of tradition. From 1900 until 1927 Puerto Rico produced around 35 million tons of tobacco a year. And in 2017 there were 13.5 billion cigars sold in the United States alone.
We at Don Collins would like to welcome you to join this ancient tradition by experiencing the flavor of an authentic Puerto Rican cigar made in the oldest surviving cigar factory in the Caribbean - a history and tradition that just can't be beat.
Oldest Operating Tobacco Company
Founded in 1506
We are not just a cigar store, but a legendary tobacco company. Our history starts with the Porto Rico Leaf Company which was organized and chartered by Spain around 1506. The company later became the Porto Rico Tobaco Company, and in 1898 it became the Porto Rico American Tobacco Corporation. Then in the 1920s the company was consolidated one last time into the Puerto Rico Tobacco Corporation (PTRC), which is still in operation today.
In 1991 the PRTC focused their business on crafting high quality Don Collins Cigars - a tradition that is still going strong today. We are incredibly proud to share roots with the oldest chartered tobacco company still in operation today, and likely the oldest continuously operating company in the western hemisphere!
Our Historic Buildings
and a Passion for Antiquity
Our San Juan store & lounge located at 59 Calle Del Cristo sits in the heart of the historic Old San Juan. It is just steps away from the San Juan Bautista Cathedral, which is the site of the second oldest cathedral in the western hemisphere and the tomb of Ponce de León.
It is also a short walk away from the San José Church, which was built after the Puerto Rico Tobacco Company was established, and was restored in 2016 by Dr. Agamemnon Pantel and his wife Beatriz del Cueto. The church was constructed in 1532, and is one of the earliest surviving examples of 16th century Spanish Gothic architecture.
If that wasn't interesting enough, the store is located a block away from the Calle San Sebastian, where the Carnival of Puerto Rico, also known as the San Sebastian Street Festival, takes place every January in Old San Juan. This four day festival honors Saint Sebastián and is featured by a parade, music, dance, and an artisan market featuring Puerto Rican food, rum, art, jewelry, and of course cigars since 1970.
Don Collins is also produced in the oldest continuously operated factory in the Americas, which is still owned by the Puerto Rico Tobacco Corporation. The historic building was renovated in 1997 by LG Scott Architects, but still features the original architectural design and intricate metalwork estimated to be from the 1920s.
The expansive and iconic building is nestled in Bayamon next to an archeological site where natives used to celebrate an annual Sik'ar (cigar) festival. The site was studied by Dr. Agamemnon and his wife Beatriz Del Cueto, who are not only accomplished archeologists and preservationists, but whom also acted as historic preservation consultants for the Puerto Rico Tobacco Corporation and Don Collins Cigars in the past.
Don Collins, the first owner for whom the company is named, carried a great love of native history and culture. He strived to preserve the memories and the records of the past not only in his research of the history of Don Collins, but also in all native Taíno culture and the preservation of local historic buildings and sites. We honor the ancestors of our past and we honor Don Collins by carrying on this tradition.